Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Bring on the New Year!

First up, a belated..

MERRY CHRISTMAS.. all you bloggers out there!!

So I'm a few days too's the thought that counts, so I'm told.

I've seen a ton of posts around over the last few days with lots of 2011 excitement, be it blog challenges, resolutions or read-alongs. So, I'm going to do a little bit of all three! Because I'm both sceptical of my chances of getting any posting done until 2011 has already dawned what with entertaining both my own and boyfriend's parents at our house over the next couple of days (*deep calming breaths*) and overly-excited about all the bloggy goodness I'm hoping for in this coming year.

I've already signed up for the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge but would like to get all signed up to just a couple more:

Hosted over at The Ladybug Reads - this one is as simple as it sounds: read eBooks! Since I got my eReader I've fallen in love! If you too love a bit 'e' action, just head on over to the blog, choose your level and sign up! I'm going for obsessed - 20 eBooks.

Hosted over at The Book Vixen - one of the things I have learnt since I started this blog is that I let a lot of things get in the way of reading. I'll probably finish this year (unless I get poorly and end up bed-ridden with nothing but my books for company) on just under 50 books. That really isn't as many as I thought but I guess averaging a book a week isn't so bad considering the length of some of the books I have read. ANYway, this challenge sets you the task of outdoing yourself! So next year, I aim, quite simply, to read more books in 2011 than I will have read in 2010. I'm going for breaking a sweat - 11-15 more books.


Usually, I hate New Year's Resolutions - they seem fun at the time and are motivating for all of two weeks and then you end up finishing January disappointed. No way to start a year if you ask me! But, that said, I'd like to set myself some little goals for the year and see how I go:

1. Post more consistently: I now work further away from home than I did previously which means that I spend longer commuting and less time at home. So what I need to do is make better use of the time I am at home or able to blog remotely to make sure I can stay in touch with my blog and post reviews for the increasing number of books I'll be ridding *determined nod*

2. Get more involved in the blog community: So far this year, I've loved what I've seen - I want to get out there and find all there is to love amongst book blogging!

3. Be more of a nerd: I don't need too much help with this one but, more specifically, I want to keep track of what I'm reading a bit more - that means spreadsheets and lists! Ah, spreadsheets and lists.....ahem! I'm hoping that this will help me keep track of books I want to read, books I have read and generally do a better job of plotting my course through all of the hundreds of books I want to get to!

AND FINALLY, as of 1st January 2011, I will be starting my first read-along of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier so that's very exciting :)


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Review(!): 'Life and Laughing: My Story' by Michael McIntyre

Rating: 3.5 stars

Format: eBook

Source: Library's eBook site

Published: by Penguin Books Limited in October 2010

The Synopsis

I thought that, rather than writing what you already know (this is an autobiography of a comedian named Michael McIntyre), I would put in a funny clip that actually gives you a better idea about the kind of tone of the book and the person who wrote it...I'm not sure how well known Michael McIntyre is around the world (perhaps nowhere outside of the UK!) but anyway, enjoy!

***Sincere apologies if that doesn't work - I'm on my PC in my office and it doesn't have the right media player so I can't check...if it doesn't work, it will be rectified from my trusty laptop this evening!***

The Review

I'm a huge fan of Michael McIntyre as a comedian; I adore his stand-up and it always seems to make me laugh no matter how many times I've seen it! But, going into reading this, I was trying to balance that against my innate dislike of autobiographies. That's unfair, actually. Make that my innate dislike of modern autobiographies by celebrities. I've never read one and would still maintain that it isn't a habit. I wanted something funny to read; I know I find Michael McIntyre funny SO I spotted this available on the library's site and decided to go for it.

It is, as I hoped, really very entertaining! Laugh-out-loud type funny, which is, as you can imagine, not ideal for public transport. The tone was exactly like that of his stand-up and that was perfect.

What I wasn't prepared for though was that it wouldn't just be funny. The parts of the story where life isn't all rosy feel very genuine and are fascinating. I never knew how much comedians go through before they are 'recognised' and I do now, so that's a bonus.

There isn't really a great deal I can offer more than that, I don't think: the writing is superb, the tone alternates between amused/self-depracating and touchingly honest and it's a great insight into the work required to be in any comedic profession.

Overall: As far as my experience goes, this is a great autobiography - it doesn't take itself too seriously and is humble but, most of all, it's a witty and light read that will keep you giggling until Christmas. I'd recommend it to fans of McIntyre's stand-up. To those who haven't heard of him - head on over to YouTube - the guy's awesome!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Rebecca Readalong Sign Up Time :)

Golly, I seem to be doing a lot of "next year, I'll be doing ..." posts and not a lot of reviewing or talking about actual books! I do apologise for that but I guess it's that time of year - tons of us bloggers are being swept away by tempting challenges and irresistible goodies for 2011! Anyway, I can't promise this is the last but I shall promise that I'll get a review up before I post another join-up! I've finished Michael McIntyre's autobiography (perhaps the first autobiography I've read since school...) and have pretty much finished an amazing historical fiction novel, Dandelions in the Garden by Charlie Courtland. Reviews hopefully up soon so hang in there blog-fellows!

Anyway, on to the READALONG!!

I've wanted to read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for years and bought a copy ages ago with that very intention. Did I read it? No. It has languished on my shelves ever since. But no more!!

Allie over at A Literary Odyssey is hosting a fabulous Readalong throughout January 2011

All you have to do is head over here and post a comment saying that you want to take part. Then, obviously, you read the book along with lots of other bloggy companions and gossip about it to your heart's content! These are the scheduled posts:
  • 14-17 January - This post will focus on the first half of the book (approx. 190 pages or chapters 1-15)

  • 28-31 January - This post will focus on the second half of the book (approx. 190 pages or chapters 16-27)

So if you fancy enjoying this classic with some like-minded folk, head over and sign up!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

(Some waffle and..) The 2011 TBR Pile Challenge!!!

Hosted by: Roof Beam Reader

This ties in nicely with my most recent post on the 'TBR Dare' - seeing as I'm going to be attempting to stick to those books I already own, I might as well be laying down some ground rules or, more specifically, sticking to those laid down by others...SO, here's the deal:

The Goal:
To finally read 12 books from your "to be read" pile, within 12 months.


1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or "To Be Read" list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2010 or later (any book published in the year 2009 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile - I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the "can't get through" pile.

2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below - link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book's review. Every listed book must be completed and must be reviewed in order to count as completed.

3. Your list must be posted by Friday, December 31st, 2010.

There's more information over at the sign-up post here - to be honest, if you haven't checked out Roof Beam Reader already while blogging around, shame on you! The reviews are particularly interesting and penned by...wait for it...a MAN! So yeh, it's awesome, go there now! Why not sign up for the challenge while you're there?! :)

On to the list!!! The 12 books I plan on reading are:

  1. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
  2. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
  3. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  4. The Girl at Lion D'Or by Sebastian Faulks
  5. Possession by A.S.Byatt
  6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostotevsky
  7. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  9. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  10. A Changed Man by Francine Prose
  11. Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann
  12. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

And my two reserves (because some of those might beat me..we'll see..) are:

  1. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  2. Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

On a festive aside, my boyfriend and I went to lovely York today to use our pre-Christmas leave to finish off our present buying - I snapped this little picture hastily on my phone (because it was snowing and my boyfriend said I was being embarassing!) and thought I'd share even if it isn't the best picture...aah, York is such a beautiful city in places - particularly while hugging a mug of mulled wine and buying presents!!! :)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The TBR Dare!

The Dare: This is not a reading challenge. It's a dare. [James @ Ready When You Are, C.B dares] you to pledge you will only read books in your TBR stack for as long as you dare starting 1 January 2011.

**One hour, one day, one book, one week, or until the dare ends on April 1**

I know I've mentioned this about a thousand times since I started blogging but early this year my boyfriend and I decided to be "grown-ups" and buy a house - I know, scary! So I merrily packed up my books in boxes, supervised them into the van that contained everything we owned (more than we thought, as it turns out...) and bobbled along the road to suburban happiness.

My parents, as a moving gift, helped us buy some furniture and I invested in two huge bookcases for my collection. Floor to ceiling jobs that made the study look just lovely! And then I started unpacking...carried on unpacking...still unpacking...and they were full and I hadn't finished. Yes, a problem.

Another thing people don't mention: houses are expensive! Decorating, furnishing and a new front door does not need a lot to spare for books - and yet I always manage to squeeze some in each month...

ANYway, enough blabbery back story? I think so! In short: I have too many books and could do with saving some money if I ever want to go on holiday ever again; I need to actually read the books I have rather than spending the money I don't have on new ones...

SO: I will be reading exclusively from my stash of books (e and regular!) from 1 January to at least 1 February and as long as I can manage after that!

Care to join me?! Just click the blog title link back up at the top of this post! You know you want to...

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

HELP needed: Twitter Mega-Novice

I've always been intrigued by the idea of Twitter and couldn't get the appeal - I used to actively be irritated by some Facebook 'status updating' habits (Do I need to know when you're arguing with your boyfriend? No...whatever happened to not "airing dirty laundry in public"?!). I thought that Twitter was essentially this element of Facebook boiled down. Apparently, I was wrong - whoever would have guessed?

But my curiosity has gradually been piqued, particularly by bloggers who mention book clubs, read-alongs and other such bookish activities. So I finally signed up and thought I would give it a go!

Turns out, it's confusing! I have no idea how I'm supposed to find all these lovely activities, never mind get this is a humble plea to those more experienced than I in "tweeting"...any advice would be lovely :) And any recommendations of stuff I can join or get involved in on a book-type theme would be even lovelier!!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Review: 'Burnt Shadows' by Kamila Shamsie

Far less often than I should, I'll read something I know is going to be hard-going, be it controversial political points or just gut-wrenching sobs galore, just to keep the brain cells ticking. Even less often, I'll read something that is both of those things rolled into one but for some reason I feel compelled to buy copies for everyone I know - THIS is one of those books...

*****Rating: 5 stars*****
Format: Paperback

Source: Local charity shop

Genre: Literary fiction

Published: by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc in October 2009

The Synopsis (Taken from

In a prison cell in the US, a man stands trembling, naked, fearfully waiting to be shipped to Guantanamo Bay. How did it come to this? he wonders. August 9th, 1945, Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanaka steps out onto her veranda, taking in the view of the terraced slopes leading up to the sky. Wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, she is twenty-one, in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. In a split second, the world turns white. In the next, it explodes with the sound of fire and the horror of realisation. In the numbing aftermath of a bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost...

Sweeping in its scope and mesmerising in its evocation of time and place, "Burnt Shadows" is an epic narrative of disasters evaded and confronted, loyalties offered and repaid, and loves rewarded and betrayed.

The Review

Not too many years ago, there was a child who cried at social injustice without understanding what she was crying at; then, there was an idealistic law student determined to become a human rights lawyer, unswervingly filling her head with international cases and conventions/statute/regulations and muddling through them all to find a way towards that ever-mocked 'world peace'. And yes, she is me...
At some point I realised two things: one, it was unlikely I would ever make it in the ironically cut-throat world that is becoming an established human rights lawyer and; two, short of a windfall, I couldn't support myself through the hundreds of pro bono cases that would preceed the actually-getting-paid part (those who have their human rights violated obviously not usually being particularly wealthy...). So I still became a lawyer but I swerved off towards commercial (and I love it, so that isn't a sad ending!). One thing I will always remember from university, though, was a presentation but a British-American lawyer who represented British/American nationals who were being held in Guantanamo Bay and was one of the only legal personnel allowed in. His talk was fascinating in detail but the thing that struck me the most was the same way as that which struck me with Burnt Shadows.

When an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, a huge number of people were killed. How do those that make the decisions on things like that rationalise it? What are the effects on those individuals that get caught up in political strife and war? The amount of people that were killed by that atomic bomb was huge (approximately 60-80,000) but compare it to the amount that were killed during World War II and, shockingly, it starts to look small. What I loved about Burnt Shadows, and what I loved about that British-American lawyer years ago, was the author's ability to look past the bigger picture and at the individuals whose lives are shaped by global events. Looking past the deaths of tens of thousands and focusing on "just" a couple is hard to do well, I think. It's too easy to miss the finer points of emotion in the grasping of massive tragedy - if my city was devastated in this way, would I stop to think about the effect on tens of thousands? Eventually yes, but right away? I think I'd be more likely to be caught up in my own grief about my own family/friends. It's selfish but it's real. Likewise Guantanamo Bay - looking past 9/11 and at the individual alleged terrorists is exceptionally difficult but Burnt Shadows looks at that issue, as did my revered lawyer. Can we look past the world-changing events and listen to an individual accused's story without skewing it with our own perceptions? I wouldn't dare ruin the book but this is indeed an epic story sweeping up these issues and presenting them through the plight of two families: the Burtons and the Ashraf-Tanakas.

To communicate these harrowing themes, Shamsie uses prose that is so elegant it could be poetry. The story flows beautifully and the imagery for each country evokes a sense of time and atmosphere that I was constantly in awe of - I don't think I've ever read a book that so deftly switches between countries and era. The reader travels through Japan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and New York over the space of about 60-something years and each time the story "jumps", it re-establishes itself so quickly that you feel as though you've been with the characters the whole time. In some books, when we skip a period of say 30 years, it feels as though one story just cuts to another - I think it works so much better here because the characters are strong and their relationships so realistic that you pick up with them as you would a good friend you haven't seen in years but still love dearly.

My personal favourite character is Hiroko - she survives the dropping of the second atomic bomb, partition in India and post-terrorist New York in the way I think most of us would like to imagine we would: yes, she has physical and emotional scars but she's resolute about survival; she experiences real emotions like rage and devastation but gradually picks herself back up and looks after those she loves. She's also a fantastic individualist and her integration into Pakistani culture is very moving in places.

This is by no means an easy read but I respect Shamsie immensely for tackling the subject matter in such a humbling way. I went through everything with those characters and have spent the last couple of days mulling it over and remembering and appreciating something new each time I do. I could honestly go ramble on forever! I'd set up a book club just to force people to read this.

Everyone I've spoken to even once in the last year, expect a copy for Christmas....

Overall: I struggle to find the words to recommend this enough: it's heart-breaking; it's funny; it's political and historical; it's about love but most of all it's about the impact of those huge world-changing events on the "little person" and how you can survive so much more than you think if you just have the right attitude and something/one to hold on to. Read it, dwell on it and cry over it - you'll feel better when you have...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A new (to me) resource for ebooks...

I've been struggling for a little while (a whole 5 minutes!) to remember where I first saw mention of this site and I can't so, to anyone's blog I follow who also happens to read this article and who then thinks, "I wrote about that!", I'm sorry - feel free to comment and correct me!

Regardless, I've 'found' this site called NetGalley - the website is for "professional readers", which I know is an extremely odd concept but fortuitously includes book bloggers whose blogs feature reviews. It's gloriously simple - publishers post lists of books that they have available for review in ebook format; bloggers can browse them and request copies of those they want to read and review; the publisher sends you an email if/when the request is approved and the book is ready for review.

Obviously this is only really useful to those with eReaders or possibly iPhones/iPads that they can read on OR who don't mind reading from a computerscreen...but I think it's a good way of finding new authors or requesting review copies of upcoming releases that you fancy! HarperCollins and Harlequin both put books on there so it's both popular and indie.

Hope you enjoy it and find something you love! Some of the books I've received so far are:

The Gourmet Cookie Book Gourmet Magazine

Cooking for Geeks Jeff Potter

Enchanted No More Robin D. Owens

Saturday, 27 November 2010

101 Fantasy Challenge: It's gone perpetual...

I've started seeing a lot of Christmas themed blogger challenges and, even scarier, a lot of 2011 challenges - I can see myself getting carried away with that before long!

The 101 Fantasy Challenge is hosted here on it's very own blog and is run by Michelle from over at The True Book Addict. When I joined up, the idea was to pick a number of books from the list of the top 101 fantasy books, as voted for by bloggers, to read before the end of this year. After some deliberation and input from those who'd joined up to the challenge, Michelle decided to make the challenge perpetual, i.e. read through the list at your own pace.

Current progress:

Read 31 (including all of the top 10, which is essentially the Twilight saga and Harry Potter)

Owned but unread 15

So if I read through the ones I own but have yet to read, I'm almost half way there :) I'll be keeping track of my progress on my Challenges pages, which you can get to by clicking up at the top.

Go ahead and sign up if you like fantasy - there are some great reads on there!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Review: 'Spy Glass' by Maria V. Snyder

Rating: 4.5 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: The publisher - Mira Books

Genre: Fantasy; (possibly) YA

Published: by Mira Books in September 2010

The Synopsis

As per usual, I am going to refrain from posting the synopsis so that I don't ruin the first two in the series for anybody tempted to pick these up - if either you've read Storm Glass and Sea Glass and are yet to get round to Spy Glass or are just not that bothered about spoilers, check out the book on GoodReads here.

The Review

I'm always wary of final books in any kind of series, be it 3 or 13 books, because by that point I've already invested a lot of time in the characters and have usually come to love some or all of them. I worry that the author will throw a curve ball that I won't like and that it will taint my views of the previous books or that the ending won't be one that works or that they will try too hard and rush things in an artificial finale. That said, I'm not much of a worrier, honest!

To her credit, Snyder falls into none of these traps and I loved the final book of this series. It's fast-paced and ties together the characters, countries and their pasts without seeming strained. What I found amazed me the most was how, when I finished the book with a tear in my eye (not always hard to produce...), much I loved the ending. If I'd been told the ending while reading the beginning of the series, heck, even the beginning of this book, I would have been disappointed, I think. But the story is so well drawn and the characters so well woven that I found that it was exactly the ending I wanted by the time it came around!

Which relates nicely to one of the best things about this, and Snyder's other, book(s). The characters are just fantastic - they're intriguing and surprising and grow as you're reading. Opal in particular has become a lot more worthy of her role as lead female and has lost a lot of the petulance that seems to cling to her in Sea Glass. Even better, my favourite character from the Study series returned to this one so I was a happy girl!

Also, on a more serious(ish) note, I respect Snyder for using the often frivolous fantasy genre to look at some challenging socio-political issues. Admittedly, I could be over-analysing but I have got the impression before that there is a lot more than meets the eye to some of the trilogies' mechanisms (for example, capitalism v communism). Without revealing too much (I hope), Opal finds herself in an extremely patriarchal (bordering on cultish) society and looking at the plight of the repressed masses when in the thrall of a man who is, to all intents and purposes, a dictator. It's disturbing and in some ways abhorrent and the scariest thing is, it has at some places and in some times been some people's reality. You could quite easily read these books without looking at them in this way but I think it adds something to the story that is unique, refreshing and intelligent. As I said though, it wouldn't be the first time I've over-thought something...

Overall: I definitely recommend this series to fans of fantasy fiction - there is a light-hearted wit running through the book but the events are often harrowing, which is a welcome contrast. It has action, romance, magic, political intrigue and scandal - what's not to love?! Go grab a copy of Storm Glass and get going - you won't regret it!

Yes, I admit it - I'm woefully disorganised!

Golly - has it really been a whole week since I posted last?! Since that I've revised for, and sat, an exam, which was obviously delightful!! Don't you just hate it when life gets in your blogging way?

Anyway, I've swept through the amazingness that was Spy Glass - the last of the Glass trilogy by Maria V. Snyder, have craftily purchased my co-habiting laptop hog of a boyfriend a new distraction and shall be reviewing and raving about the final instalment later. I could, of course, have waited to post until that time but I felt guilty and it was distracting me at work (not that I'm not eternally focussed, you understand...) so this is like a "holding post".

Stick with me peeps, I WILL do better - in fact, consistent blogging may well be a New Year's Resolution!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Double Review: 'Storm Glass' and 'Sea Glass' by Maria V. Snyder

Once again, I've been dawdling - you know what it's like when you're on a course about "Financial and Business Skills", you just get swept up in all the fun and forget everything else! Ok, so that isn't quite the case but I have had 'homework' for the first time since I was at uni so that's been taking up my time nicely...ANYway on to the review.

Cumulative Rating: 4 stars

Format: Both eBooks

Source: Bought from Waterstones website

Genre: Fantasy; (possibly) YA

Published: By Mira Books in July and September 2009 respectively

The Synopses (Is that the plural of a 'synopsis'? Interesting...)

Storm Glass: Untrained. Untested. Unleashed. With her unique magical abilities, Opal has always felt unsure of her place at Sitia's magic academy. But when the Stormdancer clan needs help, Opal's knowledge makes her the perfect choice - until the mission goes awry. Pulling her powers in unfamiliar directions, Opal finds herself tapping into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. Now Opal must deal with plotters out to destroy the Stormdancer clan, as well as a traitor in their midst. With danger and deception rising around her, will Opal's untested abilities destroy her - or save them all?

Sea Glass: This is obviously the second in the Glass Trilogy so, in the interests of not spoiling the first one for you - if you want it read it, head here to GoodReads. Otherwise, go buy the books right away :)

The Review:
Not long ago, I read the Poison Study series with Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study reviewed on this blog (just click on the names).

I really enjoyed them so when I was offered a review copy of Spy Glass (the third in the Glass Trilogy) I was excited but couldn't bear to read it in isolation so I snatched up the first two and have finally got round to reading them, obviously back to back as is my usual unrestrained style.

Firstly, I definitely wouldn't say that to have to read the Study series before you read this but it does, I think, make the experience a lot more rounded and gives you much needed background on a lot of the characters, political intrigue, history and the magic. Although if you don't want to or don't have time, don't feel you have to - this series is fantastic in isolation too!

As before, I love the magic in this series - the whole world is coated with power from which some can draw. Those that can, are magicians. Opal Cowan is unique in that she can only draw power to glass - creating 'glass messengers' that magicians use to communicate with each other (think glass magic meets mobile phone technology...). Her abilities make her both revered among older magicians and an outcast among her peers. She struggles with being a one trick wonder and trying to find her place in the magical community.

Admittedly, at times, Opal can be a tad on the whiny side and it is a bit off-putting earlier on in the first novel but, I promise, she does get better. I love that she reacts to her experiences like a 'real person' - her relationships seem more realistic than those often found in fantasy novels aimed at younger readers as they are more complex. I've read criticism of the love triangle but I think it works and helps bring Opal to life more. The development of Opal throughout the books is fabulous and I find that the stories shift to reflect that.

Lastly, the dialogue in particular is perfect in this novel, if heavy on the sarcasm. There are moments when I've actually chuckled to myself and that kind of light relief is necessary when you have torture and murder lurking around! The stories get dark but are so involving that I was absolutely hooked.

Overall: This is sharper and snappier than the Study series and is greatly entertaining. There are some of what the film/TV industry call 'adult themes', as before, which make the series more gritty and exciting than the more commonplace fantasy offerings - I've yet to finish the series but I love the way its shaping up!

You can read another (less waffly) review of Storm Glass here over at e-Volving Books.
I'm currently reading Spy Glass so should be reviewing it over the weekend! And now, off to enjoy some Jonny Depp in Alice in Wonderland - Jonny Depp in full Blu-Ray loveliness? Yes, please!! :)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

**e-Volving Books: SPOTLIGHT feature**

As I've mentioned a number of times since my birthday, I'm a huge fan of my Sony eReader Touch (for my initial excited post, click here). I often think that there's a degree of bookish..not snobbery but something similar..when it comes to those of us who go for ebooks; as though we're dragging the tradition of reading through the mud.

I love my eReader (and so do my handbags), which is why I also love this awesome blog:

This week, she's started an amazing new feature entitled 'Blogger Spotlight' where she will be interviewing other bloggers who, like her, have a mega appreciation for the electronic word! It's a fantastic idea and her blog is packed full of articles, features, ereader help and reviews and you should definitely be heading over maybe when you've read to the end of this post!)

It is with no small amount of excitement that I can proudly say that this week the FIRST featured blogger is LIT ADDICTED BRIT!! Check out the interview here and share the love for all things 'e'!! If you fancy being a featured blogger, check out her blog and drop her an e-mail!

Thanks Dee!!!!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Bonfire Night and no serious hopping...

...except for in glee at my excitement at Bonfire Night!!

I loved the Book Blogger Hop question this week about how it feels to lose followers and whether or not we, as fellow bloggers, ever stop following another blog but can't commit to hopping because in England, it's Bonfire Night (yey!) so am bowing out. As it happens, I hate to lose followers but hope they blog off somewhere happy :) I do occasionally stop following blogs but only if I find that for at least a couple of months, I'm not giving their posts the attention they deserve. Often that's because I find meme reading a bit repetitive and the odd few do nothing but...I love blogging because of the originality of some bloggers and if I find I'm missing that, I'll eventually drift off.

I've always been a huge fan of Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night, if you prefer) - I love getting wrapped up in full winter garb with a hat, scarf, gloves and big coat; I love drinking over-priced hot drinks (usually mulled wine for me!) and eating bonfire toffee; most of all, I love 'ooh'-ing at pretty fireworks and getting too hot near the huge fire and then freezing on the way home! It's all so romantic and beautiful.

Which is weird considering its sinister origins I think...Guy Fawkes and his friends try to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 but get caught. Mr Fawkes was later hanged along with some of his co-conspirators and, to celebrate (?!) the thwarting of the plot and aversion of disaster, we light fireworks and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes (or other historical figures...) on a huge bonfire because that's what people did to celebrate on 05 November 1605 (minus fireworks until circa 1650) - nice, huh?

Regardless of that, I love it and can't wait!!

Happy hopping those that are taking part and lovely Fridays to all those that aren't!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Non-fiction Review: "Faux Amis" by Ellie Malet Spradbery

This is a first for Lit Addicted Brit: a review of a non-fiction. The main reason for this is that I don't tend to read a great deal of non-fiction. I'll read newspapers and law journals but, aside from that, most of my outside-of-work "learning" now is via televised documentaries. I think I should probably be ashamed about that. So anyway, on with this 'first'!

Rating: 2.5 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer program

Genre: Non-fiction - Language

Published: By Matador in 2010

What the blurb said:

A light-hearted exploration of the French language and culture and, in particular, words and phrases that could trip up the unwary linguist.

After reading this book of False will be better able to avoid those awkward pitfalls and misunderstandings...An ideal companion for readers of French as well as travellers in France.

What I would say:

I was way more excited than I should admit when I saw this book on LibraryThing - when I was at college studying for a French A-Level (I don't know the American equivalent, sorry!), my teacher used to have us in stitches with stories of 'faux amis'. Literally translated, they are 'false friends', i.e. words that are spelt like English words but actually mean something completely different. Take, for example, une histoire - looks like 'history' but actually means, somewhat appropriately, 'a story'.

Back then, my teacher's point was to stop us being lazy and assuming we could translate things without checking. Later, I learned it was necessary to avoid major restaurant embarrassment after I ordered 'steak tartare' expecting a steak and receiving a lovely pile of raw diced beef with a raw egg yolk on top - not appealing to a new-to-France 17 year old...

So that's the point of the book. I was looking forward to a better look at these common miscommunications and perhaps a couple of amusing scenarios to chuckle over. I was promised a "light-hearted exploration", after all! What I got was a book of lists of words. Yes, it's functional and is very helpful to someone at an intermediate level of French speaking with a love for words. But that's it: no anecdotes; no explanations. Just translations. It's great as that - my disappointment stems from what I expected and what I think the book could have been. And that's entirely my own fault, not the author's!

One high point was the section at the end on how to say some quintessentially English phrases in French, like "It's not my cup of tea" (Ca n'est pas ma chose favorite) and "a hoo-hah" (un brouhaha) - ok, so that's nerdy...but I liked it...

Overall: I really wouldn't recommend this to an absolute beginner but it is a handy tool for an intermediate French speaker. It's a very niche book and I can't see it appealing to a reader with just a passing interest in languages but it is great as a pocket-sized resource.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Review: 'The Study Train: Volume 1 - Reunion of the Untouchables' by Kurt Frenier

Rating: 3 stars (for me) OR 4 stars (for someone younger)

Format: eBook

Source: Direct from author

Genre: YA/ Fantasy

Published: By Strategic Book Group in 2010

What the book's about:

Sixteen-year-old Ethan is a lonely and beaten-up teenager, living in a small village in Switzerland. He is disconnected from his parents, hates his life, and escapes in his hidden dream world – the old ruins. One day, he gets a mysterious invitation to join what seems to be an educational train built to create ‘new world leaders’. Ethan reluctantly accepts.
From the moment he steps on the StudyTrain, something happens to him. He meets people he admired and likes, and that like him! Lord Althulos, guardian of the train and headmaster of the school, is the father figure Ethan never had. All seems peacefully and quietly going his way, as if the odds have turned.

Pretty soon, Ethan discovers the wonders of the 500-year old train. The Delivery Room in particular, where all the knowledge of the world and of all the previous students-now-world-leaders is saved, opens Ethan’s eyes.

What I would say:

As a first, I've given this book two ratings. I realise this might seem bizarre because I've given it a rating for my appreciation of the book that is line with other books I have read and enjoyed recently. However, objectively, this book is aimed at someone slightly younger and I didn't want to give the impression that this book wouldn't be great for them or that I didn't enjoy it. Obviously this is where the old rating system is somewhat flawed because a reviewer could always say "It's a 1 from me but I'm sure other people might think it's a 5...". So I shall explain...

The premise of this story is not too dissimilar to Harry Potter in that Ethan is marginalised and lost before being taken to a magical education establishment and taken under the wing of a benevolent 500-year-old (and please don't crucify me for not knowing how old Dumbledore is!). While the comparison is an obvious one, the book is distinct enough that it doesn't feel like an imitation, just nicely reminiscent.

The good vs. evil theme is as prevalent as ever but what is rather unique for a book aimed at a teenage audience (I think...) about this book is that this time-old battle is waged within one character (Ethan) as he tries to decide whether to use his newly discovered powers for good or to succumb to the Dark Fire Inside. The Untouchables attempting to lead Ethan astray lend a much needed darkness to the book and break up the Malory-Towers-esque boarding school feel brilliantly. It was probably the bad guys that actually drove the story on so quickly and so well! One minor point was that Ethan himself could be a tad petulant but that will probably resonate perfectly with an angsty youth!

My favourite thing about the book was that, as with HP, the book implies that all this could be going on right under our very noses (or indeed above our very heads) and is perfectly lovely in all its magicality. The StudyTrain also takes credit for the successes of a host of historical figures, Martin Luther King Jr by way of example, and educates the 'chosen' in becoming such great political inspirations and leaders. I really enjoyed that aspect although I'm sure conspiracy theorists would have a field day!

The book is complete as an isolated novel but obviously leaves the way clear for one or more sequels. I would probably pick the sequels up since the book really didn't take very long to read but, as I said, I'd be more likely to buy them for an unsuspecting teenager and then force them to tell me all about it....vicarious reading is ok, right?

Overall: This is a light read that I would definitely recommend to a teenager (if I knew any well enough!) - it's fun and full of action and intrigue and great for a "light bite".

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Doubling up and hitting 50...

I'd like to first point out that 'hitting 50' does not refer to my age - it refers to my super excitement about having reached 50 followers!! I'm extremely grateful to all of you and it makes me ever more happy that I joined this cute little blogging community! So THANK YOU for your support!!

Second, I recently attempted something very out of character for me - reading two books at once. Usually I am most definitely a one-book girl. When I last did this experiment (some years ago), I just found that I very quickly preferred one of the other and just focused on that, meaning I didn't so much read two books at once as start one, put it down, read another and then finish the one I started first.

My motivation for trying this again was that my book of choice at the time (prompted no doubt by a televised adaptation of its prequel) was World Without End by Ken Follett. I don't know if you've seen this nifty paperback but at over 1,200 pages it's a TOME. I'm loathed to buy an ebook copy simply because I already have a 'real' copy and it seems needlessly frivolous. Equally though, I can't face carrying this around in my handbag every day. SO, I thought, why not read World Without End when I'm at home and read an eBook on my commute?

Because, as per my last forray into this, I read 20 pages of WWE and then started The Study Train..(check out my 'Currently Reading' on the right) on my journey the next morning and promptly got so engrossed in it that it became my 'home read' too. WWE is still next to my bed but it's again waiting patiently in line while I finish off The Study Train...ah well, at least I tried (again)!

So, it got me thinking - how on earth do other people go about reading two books at once? Or do you, like me, just not do it to avoid confusion and battles of 'which to read' etc?

Perhaps I should just man up and carry WWE around for a while...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Book Blogger Hop: 22 - 25 October 2010 - Where do I read?

So, welcome to my blog - Lit Addicted Brit! Never a truer word etc...Here you'll find a load of reviews and whatever bookish thoughts are meandering through my head at the time - I hope you see something that takes your fancy!

Hope you're all having a fantastic weekend and enjoying the hop as usual! I am, once again, slightly late to the party but I'm here and excited about finding some new blogs!
On to this week's question:

Where is your favourite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?

One of my favourite things in ALL the world is reading outside in the sun in a sinfully comfortable lounger with a bowl of devilishly hot jalapeno-stuffed olives and a glass of ultra-cold, ultra-dry white wine...

BUT when reality bites and I remember that I live in a drizzly Yorkshire village (in England), I'll more than happily "settle" for drawing the curtains, shrugging into a huge jumper, lighting a fire and cuddling into a lovely armchair that I have put probably too close to said fire and a huge mug of coffee/cup of mulled wine with plenty of cinnamon...*happy sigh* It's a jolly close second, I must say!

So where do you read?!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Review: 'The Last Key' by Rob Steiner

Rating: 3 stars

Format: eBook

Source: LibraryThing Member Giveaway

Genre: (Epic) Fantasy

Published: By the author in 2010

What the blurb said:

I probably shouldn't get riled up about this book's "blurb" again - suffice it to say, it included what I would consider to be a fairly major spoiler and I've already ranted about it here.

By way of my own description, the novel starts by introducing the three Reaping Keys, guarded in the souls of three separate noble individuals to avoid the apocalyptic event that would be them reuniting and causing utter devastation and chaos. When two are united by Duke Thallan Brael, Jalen and Raven, his novice, are forced to protect the remaining Key and prevent their world being ripped apart.

What I would say:

The story didn't feel entirely original and reminded me both of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy and 'The Wheel of Time' series but it was reasonably good in its similarities.

The version of magic was interesting and fairly unique - some people can access 'Faith' - those who can are often bound by a Charter to become Dahkshari, protectors and healers of the people. Due to historical upset, all others are forbidden from using their Faith. Those that do so in breach of the law are known as 'sovereigns' or 'heretics', depending on what political side you're on. There were some interesting early discussions about the moral implications of denying the poorer villages the right to use their Faith to maintain their lifestyle, rather than requiring them to move to the cities and under the protection of the Dahkshari but this petered out later on. Great while it lasted...

Future Duchess, Lady Seala, is under the protection of Raven and Jalen in her journey across the plains to a world-changing treaty signing. And it is on this journey that things take a dramatic turn. The length of the journey and its dilemmas were what reminded me of The Fellowship of the Ring (or The Two Towers, I'm not sure...). For me, it was a bit too slowly paced and I felt a bit restless at a couple of points along the way. The action does pick up though and the last couple of hundred pages are fantastically quick and drag the reader along riotously.

My favourite thing (as so often is the case) were the characters. They were fairly complex and the "good" characters had darker elements and all but one of the "bad" characters had some redeemable aspects. Raven is one of the main good characters but harbours a fanatical hatred of the 'heretics' due to a childhood trauma and his dealing with this prejudice is interesting. Equally, Duke Brael is despicable and vile but at times there are glimmers of the grief and fury that drive him on and its difficult not to occasionally sympathise.

This was self-published and, unfortunately and possibly consequently, there were quite a number of grammatical/typing errors which can be annoying if you notice that kind of thing, for example, 'new' instead of 'knew'. One minor character's name is spelt in a couple of different ways and the lack of consistency was a bit irritating.

Also, it seemed as though the story drove the novel and some elements were forgotten or abandoned along the way. Ruby Fenn, for example, is a fantastic character and was one of my favourites who helps draw a lot out of Raven. However, somewhere between page 500 and 600, she just stops being in the story with very little mention of what has happened to her and no mention at all of what will happen to her. Also, some of the minor details, like the fact that the Dahkshari need to sustain their powers by eating a type of herb every day are completely ignored later on when the stock runs out.

It almost seems like the ending was rushed out and the novel is incomplete....I gave it three stars solely mostly because I found the latter half of the story to be quite exciting despite its flaws. Would I read a sequel? Probably not...

Overall: It's an ambitious first novel and good fantasy story but lacking some attention to detail. I'd recommend it but only to real fans of fantasy who are used to the longer, 'epic' type fantasy and a somewhat forgiving reader.

A thought: If you fancy giving 'The Last Key' a try, I think it is currently only available on Smashwords in eBook format.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Blurbs: A bit of a rant...

I'm currently blighted by a rather unpleasant cold - in the way that makes me utterly unpleasant to be around (what with all the tissues in tow and coughing and all..) but not incapacitated enough to exempt me from life in general. SO when my lovely but distracting boyfriend was away last night for work, I grasped the opportunity to so remove myself temporarily from the world and curled up in a pit of my own germs (usually known as my bed - excuse the vile imagery!) and read a book....

I won a copy of 'The Last Key' by Rob Steiner last month and, at over 700 pages, I was saving it until I had some more time to really get into it so this seemed like a good time. As I usually do before I jump in, I read through the blurb to get myself in the "zone" (gosh, that sounds very 90s!). In the first sentence of said blurb we have this line:
"After the death of......., Raven finds himself...."
It's really the first part that my irritation is directed at, hence me not: a) including the line itself and thereby inflicting annoyance on other potential readers, and; b) typing out the rest of it. If a blurb mentions a death, I assume we're talking the first couple of chapter type deaths BUT:

After 200 pages, this character was still going strong.

After 300 pages, there was a huge battle and I was steeling myself...but no! Still alive.

I'm now over 400 pages into the book and the character's STILL THERE! As it happens, I like this character a lot and it's not like I'm willing him to die but why put it in the blurb when it doesn't happen for at least half of the book. Why not just write the end on there too and have done with it? How much is too much? Spoiling the first half of a book, definitely too much...

Rather than getting fully engrossed, I feel like I'm waiting for a proverbial bomb to go off and it's kind of spoiling it for me. Every time there's even a sniff of a bad event, I'm thinking, "Right, this is it.." and when it's not I'm just annoyed that the blurb has spoiled yet another moment for me with needless preoccupation!

Has anyone else experienced this terrible publishing tactic/blunder?! Or am I the only person in the world that even bothers to read blurbs, thereby inviting this on myself?

Aaaand, breathe...or sniffle, if you're me...rant over...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Review: 'Sister' by Rosamund Lupton

Rating: 3.5 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: 'Borrowed' from a friend

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published: by Piatkus Books in September 2010

What the blurb said:

Nothing can break the bond between sisters ...When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister's disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister's life - and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. The police, Beatrice's fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

What I would say:

I don't normally read thrillers or 'proper' mysteries because, like I've said a lot, I'm a wimp. This was recommended to me, though, as "something a bit different" so I gave it a try one unpleasant and windy afternoo...and was unexpectedly hooked! And it was dark and tempestuous without being too scary - winner!

As I think I might have said when I started reading this book, everything about it is raw and jagged. The novel is told exclusively from the perspective of Beatrice in the form of a letter to her younger sister, Tess, peppered with memories of shared moments and conversations. The tone is impeccable - every moment of guilt, breath of horror and feeling utter devastation is portrayed painfully realistically and it imbues the story with a unique sense of perpetual anguish, completely unlike other novels of this genre I have read.

Even through all of the emotion and the pain, this book manages to also be a celebration of the relationship between sisters and it was this that made it for me. In places, the memories and illustrations of this bond are beautiful and are used both to soften the tone and provide hope or to strengthen the sense of loss. I have a younger sister myself and am extremely protective towards her, much like Beatrice - identifying with the narrator in that way made for very compelling reading! I'm sure that enjoyment of the story doesn't depend on that but it certainly heightened it for me.

The only real negative for me was that the story dawdled slightly through the middle and could have done with being wriggled on a touch. From the point where one of the twists becomes a little bit apparent, it takes marginally too long for our narrator to twig. I know, I'm being picky. This is probably in large part due to my lack of experience in this genre. It also touches on some of the same themes (for example, the girls' relationships with their mother) just a couple of times too many which can feel a bit repetitive.

Finally, there are a couple of great twists in the plot towards the end (one I kind of saw coming and one I didn't) which keep you guessing and hopelessly engrossed until the last page.

And yes, I did cry. As per usual.

Overall: Not everything about this book is easy to read but it's quite the emotional journey and I would recommend it to fans of thrillers/mysteries with a not too sensitive disposition! It's a great and moving read for a blustery, moody day (suiting the current season perfectly, if you're in the ever-autumnal north of England that is...)!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Mailbox Monday #...3? (Yes, 3...)

The meme baby of Marcia at The Printed Page and currently being hosted at She Reads and Reads, this is a happy little tale of books with new homes and tumbling TBR piles! It suits me perfectly because I get giddy at new books and this gives me somewhere to gush appropriately!

Borrowed/stolen from my bestest friend

For some reason, this lovely girl will read a book, rave about it at me and then hand it over without even a speech about its required care, not bothered about whether it will grace her bookshelves again. I'm not complaining - we have very similar taste and these books more often than not dawdle my way (and then my mum's, truth be told...)! And I know that my life would be less cluttered if I was like her...but I'm not...ANYWAY, from her bedroom floor, I snaffled these:

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

This is a mystery-with-a-twist type book where Beatrice Hemming tells the story of her sister's her sister in the form of a letter. It's my current read and it's hard-going in places, not least because I'm a big sister myself and the story is one huge torrent of raw emotion, but I'm finding it oddly compelling!

Also *rescued* were: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters and The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers.

A moment of weakness in Waterstone's...

...saw me greedily grab up The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger - so I now have books 1, 2 and 3, or to give them their names Soulless, Changeless and Blameless which I am *tremendously* excited about!

I also bought a beautiful new cookbook of homely deliciousness in the form of Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. I'm not sure if she's as popular in the US but I love her and wish I could emulate her domestic goddessness - at least I'm one step closer now!

And finally...

From the charity shop

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie which was recommended to me by Dad and has otherwise been touted as brilliant. One quote about it which I loved was this one:

"Has such a sad story ever been told so beautifully?"

So this is marked up as a mega find for me!!

So what was in your mailbox this week?!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Review: 'No and Me' by Delphine de Vigan

Rating: 4.5 stars

Format: eBook

Source: Waterstone's website

Genre: Literary fiction

Published: by Bloomsbury Publishing in August 2010

What the blurb said:

Lou Bertignac has an IQ of 160 and a good friend in class rebel Lucas. At home her father puts a brave face on things but cries in secret in the bathroom, while her mother rarely speaks and hardly ever leaves the house. To escape this desolate world, Lou goes often to Gare d'Austerlitz to see the big emotions in the smiles and tears of arrival and departure. But there she also sees the homeless, meets a girl called No, only a few years older than herself, and decides to make homelessness the topic of her class presentation. Bit by bit, Lou and No become friends until, the project over, No disappears. Heartbroken, Lou asks her parents the unaskable question and her parents say: Yes, No can come to live with them. So Lou goes down into the underworld of Paris's street people to bring her friend up to the light of a home and family life, she thinks.

What I would say:

I've seen a lot about this book on all kinds of blogs since it was published and I saw comments on plot, characters, style, cultural references...the list goes on. But nowhere did I see anything about how the novel deals with its key subject matter: homelessness. I'll admit that part of the reason I loved this book so much was that it tackles the issue with sensitivity and understanding and I respect de Vigan so much for this.

I've struggled for some time since I finished this book on Friday about how to formulate this review because it is, after all, 'only' a novel. But it felt like a lot more than that to me. It forces you to look at how you respond to this emotive social issue but avoids being sanctimonious by a well judged ending. I wouldn't have loved this book half as much if it had been all sunshine and light at the end and I think it would have been much less powerful.

Lou is an incredible choice for the novel's narrator. At 13, she sees everything with moving simplicity. No is homeless. She has a home with a spare room. If No had a home, things would be better for her. The solution is simple to her - No lives in the spare room. I loved everything about her: her awkwardness; her compassion; her fragility and her unique kind of genius. What isn't said by her is often painfully obvious to an adult reader by her observations and I adored her for her naivety. Most of all, though, I loved how she kept fighting and trying to understand No. I always find it upsetting when I hear people say, "Oh, it's their own fault" or "They could always just get a job.." etc about homeless people and it was touchingly refreshing that this book bypassed that in Lou, who is almost baffled by how No came to be where she is:

"At what point is it too late? From what moment? The first time I met her? Six months ago, two years ago, five years? Can you get out of a fix like that? How do you find yourself at the age of eighteen out on the streets with nothing and no one?"

Although this is mostly about No and Lou, their relationships with Lou's parents and Lucas lend brilliant support and Lou's glimpses of others' interactions are often revelations for the reader, if not always for Lou.

One more obvious point is that this is written by a French author and is set in Paris. I have read criticism of this book for making too many cultural references. I disagree. Paris is one of my favourite places to visit and every time I go I love it more so I would have been more than happy to lose myself in reminders of its streets - worry not, this isn't the case. Amazingly, the book manages to depict the atmosphere of the city without making it a key factor. Part of the point of the book for me was that it could be any city in any country.

My favourite quote sums up the book, Lou and the issues they address perfectly:

"We can send supersonic planes into and rockets into space, and identify a criminal from a hair or a tiny flake of skin, and grow a
tomato you can keep in the fridge for three weeks without it getting a wrinkle, and store millions of pieces of information on a tiny chip. Yet we're capable of letting people die in the street."

Overall: This is in one way a very easy read - the narration is that of a teenager and is written in that style. It is, however, difficult to read without feeling somewhat guilty about the comfortable chair you're reading it in or the steaming mug of coffee you're sipping or the biscuits you're chomping...and I couldn't recommend it enough for that very reason!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Short Story Review: 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' by Washington Irving

When I first bought my eReader, I was offered 100 free eBooks and a couple of links to sites like Project Gutenberg, where you can download the 'classics' for free. This one caught my eye because I remember going to see the film adaptation (starring the ever wonderful Johnny Depp - I couldn't resist a picture...) when I was younger and being petrified. I thought it would be a suitable bite-size read (at only 30-something pages) for the month of Hallowe'en.

As is often the case, this original story published in 1820 bears very little resemblance to the film it became.

It is set in around 1790 in a Dutch settlement known as 'Tarry Town' where the inhabitants are extremely superstitious, believing most of all in the Headless Horseman, the ghost of a Hessian trooper whose head was shot off by a stray cannonball during the American Revolutionary War. The ghost now, allegedly of course, haunts the site looking for his head.

Ichabod Crane is the character who unwittingly crosses paths with this phantom, after spending the evening trying to charm the beautiful daughter of a rich farmer. The description in this story is superb and the atmosphere of the settlement created at the beginning is one of the most charming I remember reading. Irving leaves nothing to chance - I don't think a passage goes by where the reader isn't painted a clear picture - it really is almost artistic!

Considering that this is rumoured to be one of the earliest examples of American writing still read today, it's fantastically accessible. The turns of phrase and "old-fashioned" preoccupations like your horse-riding stance, for example, rather than seeming remote just evoke a wonderful sense of history and a more innocent time.

This story won't chill you right to the bone but it might give you goosebumps on a dark night - Ichabod's encounter with the ghost (or is it...?) is fast-paced and a good climax to the tale.

Overall: Best devoured in one sitting, this is nothing like the blood bath of the film (aside from the names of characters...) and well worth the short while you'll spend on it!

Monday, 4 October 2010

A for-once-on-time 'Mailbox Monday'

Meme currently being hosted at She reads and reads - WARNING: this can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and insurmountable wishlists!

I always intend to participate in this meme because I love it (and all such similar posts) when done by other bloggers'. It doesn't help me stop buying books or racking up a monster of a wishlist on LibraryThing but I like finding out about what other people are buying and enjoying etc.

Its simple, and you all know how this goes: here's a run down of books I received this week...

From the Waterstone's website:

No and Me by Delphine De Vigan - a story about a 13 year old super-intelligent girl who befriends a homeless girl while researching for a school presentation. I know it will make me cry and probably break my heart but I'm doing it anyway!!

Also bought: Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder; The Dead Girls' Dance (Morganville Book 2) by Rachel Caine

Won at The True Book Addict

Dandelions in the Garden and The Hidden Will of the Dragon by Charlie Courtland

These are a two-part historical fiction series about the 16th century Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory (aka 'The Blood Countess'), who may or may not be the most prolific female serial killer ever known. I'm trying desperately not to read about the real life figure before I read the book but its getting tough - I shall resist temptation by starting these as soon as possible!

And before I forget...

I bought an ebook copy of Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce because I've been wanting to buy one of her books for ages and this way, I've no excuses!

AND I bought The White Queen by Phillippa Gregory on Kobo books for £2.70 - it practically threw itself into my 'basket' and I couldn't help it!! I've read a mixture of books by Gregory and they haven't always been favourites but, what can I say? I have no self control...

So, what have you all snatched up this week?!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Review: 'Shadowland' by Rhiannon Lassiter

Rating: 2.5 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer program

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Science Fiction

(Re)published: By Oxford University Press in July 2010

What the blurb said:

'What happens here is real and dangerous. You have stumbled into a darkness you don't understand.' They thought they could handle it. They thought they understood the rules. They were wrong. Now four of Earth's teenagers are trapped in new and unfamiliar worlds - paying for their part in destroying the city of Shattershard ...and almost destroying each other. Each thinks they know their friends from their enemies, but who can they really trust? And will they ever find their way home?

What I would say:

In the interests of fairness, I should probably mention that this is the third in a series of five. If my objectivity fails me, just remind me of that fact! So, on to my thoughts...

I've tried to think of this book from two different perspectives when formulating my opinions: as part of a series I'm familiar with and; as part of a series I'm new to. The conclusion I keep coming back to is that it doesn't quite work as either. Nearly the whole of the first half of this book is recapping the events of the previous two. I know how I feel when a series does this and I already know the characters and back stories - I find it a little bit annoying so I can say with some confidence that this recap would be a little too exhaustive. Now looking from the perspective of someone who was new to the series (as I actually was), the recap was still a tad too much - I found that because it took up so much of the book, I couldn't get into the story or characters as much and the 'action' was stalled for too long.

That said, what I did see of the characters I liked and the worlds in which our lead characters are stuck are interesting. The worlds all centre around the 'Great Library' where Doors lead off to different worlds controlled by different factions - personal favourites of mine were the faction who believed in idolising books but NEVER reading them and the faction who was obsessed with making lists and cataloguing books!

There is a nice mixture of politics and magic - Morgan, who was a 'Goth' on Earth is now a powerful witch and Laura aspires to be a manipulative politician (and that isn't an indictment on politicians but on Laura!). The contrast makes for a good range of interpretations of the same characters. I really liked the premise of the book but felt that, as soon as I started to get invested in the story, it was over...

Overall: This would be suited to a younger reader looking for a mild-mannered introduction to fantasy fiction with some 'mild peril' or possibly to someone looking to try out science fiction without investing too much time.